'Archer: Dreamland' finds success returning to its roots
Even before “Archer” ’s latest season premiered, FX renewed the spy comedy series for two additional seasons. The network’s aggressive decision ensures that the show which has developed a cult following will get at least ten seasons. It’s certainly a bold move, but also one that seems poised to pay off dividends for both FX and “Archer.” Having another two seasons allows the series to continue its meandering trek of espionage that has taken it through New York, Miami and — in the series’ latest, eighth season — Los Angeles. This most recent season, “Archer: Dreamland,” retains much of “Archer” ’s signature brand of juvenile humor and hilarious sequences, albeit at the cost of appearing somewhat conservative and unoriginal.
Picking up where its seventh season left off, this new season features many of the classic types of low-brow jokes that have come to define “Archer.” At this point, it’s apparent that the show is aimed at its longstanding audience members, who have become enthralled watching H. Jon Benjamin (“Bob’s Burgers”) drink and fuck his way to the top of the spy world as Sterling Archer. The show makes a concerted effort to connect with and reward loyal viewers by referencing some of the funniest instances in the series. After Archer refuses to allow a dog to accompany him, he justifies his actions by loudly proclaiming, “Because I don’t need a spirit animal and if I did, it’d be an ocelot.” Archer’s love of ocelots is, of course, well-known to devoted “Archer” fans, who witnessed him become enamored with an ocelot in season two.
“Archer: Dreamland” ’s return to its roots is clearly a boon to a show that lost its way during its “Archer: Vice” overhaul in season five. Although the cloud of such a disjointed, strange season hung over the series in season six, it worked to self-correct throughout season seven and has continued that process into this latest season.
The result of these efforts is a premiere that could almost be any episode from the show’s first four seasons. That’s certainly not a bad thing, as these were the series’ prime years that established “Archer” ’s distinct tone that mde it a household name in all Archer's ridiculous, self-centered glory. But it’s also not the best quality to possess, with many of the premiere’s jokes sounding eerily similar to any number of ones from the series’ first few seasons. While that doesn’t make the series any less funny, it does put a damper on the fun of knowing that a lot of old gags are being repurposed.
“Archer: Dreamland” also draws on its past successes in designing the characters for this newest season. The storyline in the premiere centers around longtime Archer villain Len Trexler (Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”), who is, in this most recent season, an infamous mob boss “whose hobby is dissolving people in acid,” as Archer cynically notes. This represents a departure from Trexler’s character during “Archer” ’s first two seasons, when he was a Russian intelligence commander. Bringing Trexler back into the fold seems like a safe choice to appeal to loyal audience members, and it enables “Archer” from having to develop a new antagonist. Trexler’s face may be a welcome one for audiences, but it also reeks of laziness in that the series appears unwilling or unable to introduce any new fresh faces in prominent roles, despite the show’s constant movement of locations.
Loyal followers of “Archer: Dreamland” will certainly appreciate the series’ latest season. While somewhat repetitive, the show’s gags continue to produce laughs, and Archer remains as cynical and hilarious as ever. It may be formulaic and all-too similar to its prior seasons, but “Archer: Dreamland” is still pretty damn good.
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